News


7
Jul 14

Author’s PREFACE to WYATT IN WICHITA – a novel About Wyatt Earp

Here’s my PREFACE to Wyatt in Wichita. The novel itself will be out, shortly, this preface included, from Skyhorse publications.

Preface: The Legend of Wyatt Earp

Wyatt In Wichita is a novel about a historic figure: Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp. The work you hold in your hand focuses on the young Wyatt Earp. But it’s still a novel and, inevitably, quite a bit of this tale is fiction, including the murder at the heart of the plot. Even so, many of the events in this novel did happen, and I tried to portray him in a way that seems to me close to the historic young Wyatt Earp. He was capable of doing all he does in this novel. And a number of the remarks he makes in this novel—and those made by certain others—are in fact quotations, statements made in real life.

The legend of Wyatt Earp has gone through cycles, spinning like a Peacemaker’s cylinder. Early on, the first “popularizer” of the Tombstone story, Walter Noble Burns, called him “the lion of Tombstone” and Earp myth-maker Stuart Lake made him the archetypal “Frontier Marshal.”

After a spate of overly reverential mid-century Hollywood movies, the 1960s brought a series of biased attacks on Earp’s reputation. The anti-Earp crowd claimed that Lake and Earp made many of his exploits up, or wildly exaggerated them. These writers had a way of quoting Earp’s enemies; they chose their documentation very selectively, and sometimes they made things up themselves—or exaggerated more than Lake did, but in the negative. One of the principal anti-Earp authors is from Texas, where people still grumble about how Wyatt Earp treated some of their grandfathers who were troublesome cowpokes in Dodge City and Wichita. Wyatt had a short way with rowdy drunks and Texas has never forgiven it.

In recent years, the cylinder has spun again. Serious, deep-delving researchers like Bob Palmquist, Allen Barra, John Gilchriese, and Casey Tefertiller have found evidence strongly supporting Earp. Stuart Lake exaggerated and he certainly cleaned Wyatt up, but he had some of it right. For example, Earp did, after all, ride shotgun out of Deadwood; he did arrest Shanghai Pierce; and Earp’s courtroom testimony concerning the gunfight not-quite-at-the-OK-Corral has been confirmed by forensic research. The most negative tales about Wyatt S. Earp have been cast into doubt or largely refuted.

It’s also true that Wyatt Earp was no angel—he was a complex man, and he had his dark side. We see that dark side in this novel: Earp was involved with a prostitution ring, in 1872. But he put this behind him and, despite some very human ethical stumbles, became a good lawman. It turns out that, despite the redundancy, he really was, as the old TV theme song had it, “brave, courageous and bold.”

Some historians suspect Wyatt Earp killed more men than is generally acknowledged—Johnny Ringo might’ve been one of those men—but the fights in which Wyatt fires his gun, in this novel are fiction. Wyatt in Wichita is about the young Earp, and takes place before Tombstone.

Many of the men Wyatt faced down in this novel were real, and Wyatt’s basic conflicts with them were much as I describe them. The tale of Bat Masterson and Corporal King is true, too.

While the characters Dandi LeTrouveau, Sanchez, Swinnington, Johann Burke, Toothless Mike and Montaigne are made up, Bessie Earp was a real person, as were Celia Ann “Mattie” Blaylock, Sallie Earp, Charlie Utter, Dave Leahy; so were Mike Meagher, John Slaughter, Ida May, Dunc Blackburn, Mannen Clements, Thompson’s enemies in Ellsworth, and Isaac Dodge. And of course Bat Masterson was real; so was his close friendship with Wyatt Earp. The novel’s newspaper quotations are also genuine. They are given verbatim.

The young Henry McCarty (also, William Henry McCarty), who later became well known under a different name, was in Wichita at the time Wyatt was there. No one knows if they met. They could have. Wyatt did have a fight with Doc Black like the one I describe in the novel, and for the reasons I give. Wyatt said he first met Wild Bill Hickok in Kansas City.

Opinions vary, but I believe Wyatt could have run into James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok in Deadwood too. And Wyatt’s riding shotgun for Wells Fargo, the subsequent encounter with outlaws on the trail to Cheyenne, and how that wound up, did happen much as I described it, though I have woven the real event into my fictional plot.

Early on, I had to skip ahead in time a bit—and over some mighty eventful times. A few events in Wyatt’s real history, depicted here, have been chronologically shifted for dramatic purposes. But a great many incidents in the novel really happened, as for instance the Ida May’s piano story, the confrontation on the bridge over the Arkansas River, Smith’s calumnies, Wyatt’s thumping of him, and Abel Pierce’s arrest in Wichita.

When I could, I stuck to facts.

John Shirley, 2013


3
Mar 14

Phantoms of the OSCARS

I only saw part of the Academy Awards and lost interest, but I liked Ellen Degeneres’s comic hosting, especially her line about Liza Minnelli who was in the audience. ‘”I have to say that is one of the most amazing Liza Minnelli impersonators I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” she said, pointing out Minnelli sitting in the audience. “Good job, sir.”‘ Good drag queen joke. Not sure Liza got it, judging from her expression. But if you missed the show, it was a kind of combination of self-adulation, and self-loathing –the latter in the comedy, as if to make up for the narcissism. Here’s a translation of what most people besides Ellen Degeneres said, if they were introducing people or accepting: “I gratefully KISS YOUR ASS. I kiss YOUR ass, Warner Brothers, and I kiss YOUR ass, Paramount, and I kiss YOUR ass, producer, and I kiss YOUR ass, director, and I kiss YOUR ass everybody else.” So just imagine that over and over again and you have the show, except for that hideous backdrop during the “Happiness” song where they actually had a giant non-ironic happy face. Speaking of movies, during that bit I kept thinking, “The horror…the horror…”

Kim Novak is probable getting acidic tweets about her appearance on the Oscars. The poor thing–she’s 81, trying to look 18. Girl, that surgery and that botox is not working. You’re a poster child for “the older you get the less cosmetic surgery works” or possibly “the more cosmetic surgery you get, the less it works.” A little neck tuck, that I can see. But apart from that most of these people look worse with the surgery than if they just let themselves age. It’s as if they have no respect for old people, which is ironic. But also it’s about the fact that they can’t really see themselves as they are *even in a mirror*. They get this extreme and grotesque unworkable surgery and then they *see* something else in the mirror. They mentally edit it. So long as there are no wrinkles they can seemingly see what they want. It’s living satire. Poor kid. i felt bad for her. She was so good in Vertigo. Her cosmetic surgery is now nauseatingly vertiginous. One feels, looking at it, one is falling into another and terrible world, to paraphrase PG Wodehouse.

The last time I remember seeing cosmetic surgery that hideous was on the Academy Awards was when Liberace accepted a special Oscar…That surgery was hideous, looked very new…and he looked terrified. I felt for him too.

I am saying that women in Hollywood should NOT HAVE TO have that kind of surgery–they shouldn’t be bullied into that kind of delusional extreme self modification. I’m saying it does not work and it only opens the poor thing up to ridicule. I feel my post was entirely sympathetic. This is not an ordinary situation. This is not “her dress is awful” or “she’s overweight.” I don’t care about that. this is not about minor cosmetic surgery. This is about self disfiguring due to delusion.

Basically I felt the 2014 Academy Awards lived up to its standard dismalness.


23
Oct 13

A New Dark Fantasy About the Creator of Sherlock Holmes in the Afterlife? Yes!

coverThis book, DOYLE AFTER DEATH, my new novel, is available TODAY in ebook format. The publisher is HarperCollins, for their Witness imprint.

If you’re a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and want to know what happened to him after death (in fiction anyhow), why here’s the book for you.

Read a free sample at Barnes & Noble!

I know it’s now out in ebook format because I just bought it via Amazon and looked at it on this laptop. (Yes, I could’ve gotten that download free, but that would mean waiting for them to send me some special code, and I wanted to see it.) The ebook is only $2.99! (Promotional, don’t you know.) Seems nicely organized.

Available here for Kindle …and also available from Barnes and Noble for Nook, and elsewhere.

The mass market paperback appears to be coming out in about one month, in November and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon, BN.com, or just about any brick-and-mortar bookstore that carries mass market paperbacks.